Victoria urged to support building of casino

Victoria stands to make good money off a casino, say city staff, who are recommending that council tell B.C. Lottery Corp. the city is open to the idea of a casino downtown.

Last month, BCLC asked municipalities near the core area if they wanted to be considered for a casino, indicating that it’s examining the possibility of locating a second casino closer to downtown Victoria than the one in View Royal.

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In a report going to Victoria councillors this week, city staff say a Victoria casino could range from 30,000 to 60,000 square feet of floor space and provide significant income.

BCLC turns 10 per cent of net casino profits over to the host municipality. About $4 million in 2014-15 was turned over to View Royal. By special agreement, that money is shared with other West Shore communities.

The staff report says the revenue could be allocated to housing initiatives or used for projects such as Fire Hall No. 1 replacement, refurbishment or replacement of Crystal Pool or other initiatives, such as continued work on the David Foster Harbour Pathway or the planned $7.5-million cycling network now being developed.

Mayor Lisa Helps, who has publicly mused about co-locating a casino with a sewage-treatment plant in Rock Bay, said she’s open to the idea of a casino, but not if it involves a large surface parking lot.

“One of the core considerations is parking. So if we could have something closer to downtown with all of the parking underground, then sure. But what I don’t envision is a giant parking lot,” Helps said.

“It needs to fit into the urban fabric of the city. It needs to feel like an urban casino, not like a suburban casino.”

To meet the requirements of Victoria’s Casino Rezoning Guidelines, a casino would have to be incorporated into a mixed-use development containing non-gaming amenities.

Under the guidelines, areas that would be considered for a casino include parts of downtown, the tourism district of James Bay and the Douglas-Blanshard corridor from the northern edge of downtown to the city limits at Tolmie Street, with the exception of the Hudson Bay block.

The staff report is recommending that a casino be located within a major tourist centre close to hotels, restaurants, shopping and parking, “which could accommodate the increased demand for entertainment amenities a casino would generate.”

Coun. Pam Madoff said she’s not overly enthused about hosting a casino.

“It’s never been anything that excites me terribly much. I think with a casino, to me the only benefit it provides can be seen as financial and I always like to have more than one principle brought to bear when I make a decision,” Madoff said.

Casinos generally require lots of free parking, Madoff said. “And that’s sort of contrary to good urban-planning principles as well.”

West Shore politicians have expressed concern that the capital region isn’t big enough to sustain two casinos.

Under an agreement that is unique in the province, View Royal and Langford each take 45 per cent of casino revenue allocated to local government. The remaining 10 per cent is shared by Esquimalt, Highlands, Colwood, Sooke and Metchosin.

Esquimalt and Saanich have both indicated they would consider hosting a casino.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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